A month before the winners are to be announced, this year's National Book Awards have become a story of embarrassment.
Within just a few days, children's author Lauren Myracle has been a nominee, a non-nominee, a nominee again and, finally, a non-nominee, asked to withdraw over mistakes not her own.
Myracle's "Shine" was on the original list of five finalists announced last Wednesday for the young people's literature category. But the National Book Foundation, which sponsors the prizes, cited a "miscommunication" with the judges and quickly said that her book had been confused with Franny Billingsley's "Chime."
So Myracle was out.
But within a couple of hours, the foundation changed its mind again and welcomed "Shine" back to make six nominees. Meanwhile, fans were posting congratulatory notes on Myracle's Facebook page.
By Friday, two days later, the foundation had decided five nominees were best.
"I was over the moon last week after receiving the call telling me that 'Shine' was a finalist for the award," Myracle said Monday in a statement issued through her publisher, Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams. "I was later informed that 'Shine' had been included in error, but would remain on the list based on its merits. However, on Friday I was asked to withdraw by the National Book Foundation to preserve the integrity of the award and the judges' work, and I have agreed to do so."
The National Book Awards, among the country's most prestigious literary honors, also include categories for fiction, nonfiction and poetry, judged by separate panels of fellow authors. Winners will be announced Nov. 16.
In a statement released early Monday afternoon, the foundation said that it "regrets that an error was made in the original announcement of the finalists for the 2011 National Book Award in Young People's Literature and apologizes for any confusion and hurt it may have caused Lauren Myracle."
Earlier on Mondau, foundation executive director Harold Augenbraum would not comment directly on whether Myracle had been asked to pull out, but said, "We agree with her that the integrity of the judging process means the five selections by the judges need to be the National Book Award finalists."
Known for her candid and explicit takes on teen and tween life, Myracle tells of a gay boy being brutally attacked in "Shine." In her statement Monday, she noted that the book foundation would be donating $5,000 to the Matthew Shepard Foundation, named for the Wyoming youth murdered in 1998.
Myracle, 42, is a highly praised and controversial author, winner of several awards and often on lists of books most frequently challenged by parents and educators. Her other books include "TTYL" and "Thirteen."
By Monday afternoon, a (hash)isupportshine hash tag had been set up on Twitter. Messages of sympathy were filling Myracle's Facebook page, and sales for "Shine" picked up enough that its ranking on Amazon.com jumped from No. 1,976 early Monday to No. 263.
"This was a week of extraordinary highs and lows, and throughout, all of us at Amulet and Abrams have remained in complete support of our amazing author, who has published great, groundbreaking books with our house for almost a decade," Susan Van Metre, Myracle's publisher, said in a statement.
"We are so proud of 'Shine,' a beautiful and important book, and of Lauren," said Van Metre, "not least for her grace in such a difficult week. We strongly encourage the NBF to review their procedures for transmitting award information between the judges and the staff and to authors and the public so that a painful error like this doesn't happen again."